Shakespeare’s adaptations are nothing new; they have been around for a very long time, and for the most part, they tell the same story repeatedly. But, sometimes, a film comes along and, instead of doing a modern adaptation or a retelling, comes up with a fresh take that feels like a nice change of pace. That is precisely what Rosaline felt like while watching.
A fresh and comedic twist on Shakespeare’s classic love story Romeo & Juliet told from the perspective of Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), who also happens to be Romeo’s recent love interest. Heartbroken when Romeo (Kyle Allen) meets Juliet (Isabela Merced) and begins to pursue her, Rosaline schemes to foil the famous romance and win back her guy.
While Rosaline doesn’t break new ground in terms of storytelling and sometimes falls into the traps that it seems to want to avoid, when it doesn’t try too hard to be funny and lets its cast breathe life into the film, you find yourself with a movie that is more than enjoyable and breaking the norm of what we expect from a Shakespeare adaptation.
Everything starts and ends with Kaitlyn Dever. She is not only the titular character but also the center of everything. The film needs her charisma to lift it into a new stratosphere, which is precisely what she does. She never fails, always on top of her game in every scene. Even when she doesn’t speak, she conveys everything she wants to with one look. It could have been challenging to do, especially since Dever is in almost every scene of the film, but it is something that she tackles with such grace.
If Dever shines, the film also proves that Merced and Minnie Driver – who portrays The Nurse – are too often underused in their comedic roles and deserve to be in everything. Driver, in particular, gets some incredible sarcastic moments that she just takes on so perfectly and proves that she should be in every comedy possible since her delivery is so on point.
While Rosaline plays into the tropes that we know, the modernization of the subject brings it into today’s era and offers a lot more to do in terms of humour. There is a running gag that they all speak normally except for Romeo, who, when he tries to be romantic, speaks the words that Shakespeare wrote for him in the play; small moments like this make this film stand out and not be a bore.
Is Rosaline perfect? No. The romance between Rosaline and Dario (Sean Tale) feels very much typical, and while it might be the joke that they are recreating what they hate, the film doesn’t seem to be in on that and so by the end, you can’t help but feel like the film is trying to have two messages. Except, when it works, it works. There is enough to entertain, especially with Dever carrying the movie to new heights.